This couple left a special wedding gift unopened for nearly a decade. Once they finally peeked inside, the lovebirds could hardly believe their eyes. From why they left it untouched to the big reveal, this is their story.
Kathy and Brandon
Meet Kathy Hocter and Brandon Gunn, the two sweethearts who kept a special wedding gift unopened for nearly a decade. But to understand why they did that, we have to rewind a bit to where their story began.
Brandon sported a University of Michigan t-shirt for the shot above, but he and Kathy actually attended the nearby Western Michigan University in the city of Kalamazoo. Miss Hocter was a dedicated student in the biological and biomedical sciences department, but her concentration was soon disrupted by a special someone.
When Kathy and Brandon met, they had an almost instant connection. The two were busy students at Western Michigan, splitting their time between school, parties, and friends. But the lovers' relationship became a priority the moment they crossed paths.
There was no denying their chemistry. Kathy and Brandon soon became attached at the hip, going to parties together, hanging after class, and meeting each other's friends. It was a young love filled with the excitement of university life and new experiences.
First Comes Love, Then Comes...
Brandon and Kathy became college sweethearts. And as graduation came and went, they embarked on the next chapter of their lives together. The couple dated for a few years and was as in love as ever, so there was only one thing left to do: get married.
On September 1, 2007, Mr. and Mrs. Gunn tied the knot. The pair had a beautiful ceremony surrounded by their friends and family in Jackson, Michigan. Along with their loved ones, Kathy and Brandon made their love - and commitment to each other - official. But marriage came with its own set of challenges.
A Special Gift
"When you first get married, there are growing pains: learning how to live with someone else, finding out their crazy quirks... The issues change depending on how long you've been married and what's going on in your life," Kathy explained. And that's exactly what happened after she and Brandon wed.
And luckily for them, there was one special wedding gift that would be there in the tough moments. While other guests bought from the registry or gifted something standard, Kathy's Great Aunt Alison gave the couple an unusual box along with an envelope that read, "Do not open until 1st disagreement."
They Avoided Opening It
"The presentation itself was very unique and it's not the typical gift," Kathy recalled. But what caught their attention the most were the instructions forbidding them from opening it until their first disagreement. Did they have the willpower to control their curiosity?
It probably didn't take long for the couple to encounter their first disagreement. After all, building a life with someone is not all rainbows and butterflies. Despite that, the couple avoided opening the gift. Kathy and Brandon were quite competitive and neither wanted to give in to their curiosity first.
Two Years Later
Some friendly competition wasn't the only reason they put off opening the package. The truth was that the husband and wife were scared to waste the box on a problem that would later seem small to them, and not have its contents for bigger issues in the future.
"Problems evolve over time. When we would think about the box, we would keep that in mind. We'd say, 'We think this is a mountain, but maybe it's a molehill. Maybe we don't need it yet,'" Kathy explained. Two years after their wedding, Aunt Alison was in shock that the box remained unopened. "She looked at us like we were crazy," Kathy recalled.
Kathy's Mom Was Concerned
Brandon and Kathy's resistance to opening the present became a joke in the Hoctor and Gunn households. But while most of them found it funny - and Aunt Alison seemed to find it a bit ridiculous - there was one person who was concerned about the whole affair.
Kathy's mother was nervous that the box remained unopened. "My mom was like, 'Kathy what if there's food in there or something,'" Kathy shared. She was right, so the couple reached out to Aunt Alison for a small clue. She assured them that there was nothing perishable or time-sensitive in there.
Starting a Family
More than two years passed since the couple's September wedding, and the mysterious gift from Aunt Alison remained untouched. And while the family couldn't believe the couple's self-control, they were soon distracted by other events: Kathy and Brandon started a family.
The couple welcomed their first child, a baby girl, in 2010. Three years into their marriage and a couple of more than that since their romance began in college, Brandon and Kathy were now dad and mom. About three years later, baby number two arrived, this time a son.
A growing family brought much happiness to the couple. But being parents also brought new challenges and stress like nothing they'd experienced before. Fortunately, Brandon and Kathy stuck by each other's side through every problem that came their way.
"Life throws so many twists and turns at all of us, outside of marriage, and dealing with those problems can be difficult without someone to count on, lean on, confide in or cry with," Kathy said. She felt blessed to have found Brandon to navigate life with.
Move After Move
"Brandon is my constant," Kathy gushed. "No matter what struggles I am faced with, I know that I can always count on him to be in my corner and me in his. It's so much easier to get through life when you have someone that will always be there for you and that would do anything for you, no matter the day or time."
But even working as partners, things were rough. As the family faced life's difficulties together, they also experienced plenty of changes - including three moves. And each time the Gunn fam made their way to a new home, Great Aunt Alison's gift came with them.
Move after move, the old white box got stuck in another closet either by Brandon or Kathy. And despite having had endless arguments years into their marriage, neither one of them was ready to open the gift. Instead, they learned how to overcome their disagreements.
"For the little things, learn how to disagree and move on," Kathy advised. "For the bigger things, learn how to get mad and get over it. Giving up was never an option in our situation because we never had the illusion that marriage was going to be easy."
They Forgot About It
Year after year, the gift stayed closed. "My husband and I are both very competitive people. We love a challenge... We kind of set [the gift] aside because it was special to us," Kathy explained. But it went beyond that. The couple was still scared to waste the meaningful gift.
"Like any marriage, we faced stressful times and obstacles (finances, jobs, kids, etc.) that tested our partnership," Kathy said. "We didn't want to ruin the importance of [the gift] by opening it after a silly fight." And so it remained tucked away in a closet, and the Gunns ultimately forgot about it.
A Wedding Invitation
Nine years after Brandon and Kathy became Mr. and Mrs. Gunn, Aunt Alison's box was closed - and mostly forgotten. But then a chain of events led the couple to remember the special gift's existence. The lovers never expected that this would be the reason they opened the present.
It all started with a wedding invitation for their close friend's union. While Kathy and Brandon wed seven years prior, they still enjoyed seeing their friends tie the knot and celebrating love. When they got another wedding invite, the couple was ecstatic.
An Extra Special Place
And while Kathy and Brandon loved celebrating love anytime, anyplace, this upcoming event was an extra special one. The wedding invitation listed Kalamazoo, Michigan as the location, which meant the couple would be returning to the place where they first met.
Their love story started at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, where Kathy and Brandon crossed paths. This only increased the pair's anticipation for their friends' big day. The couple couldn't wait to visit places filled with so many memories and make new ones at the wedding.
"We were talking about how excited we were to attend an upcoming wedding in Kalamazoo," Kathy recalled of the evening when the couple's whole perspective on that mysterious wedding gift changed. She and Brandon couldn't wait for the wedding and brainstormed what gift to bring.
The pair grabbed some glasses of wine and made their way to their deck after the kids went to bed. They wanted to discuss ideas and find the perfect gift for their friends and soon-to-be newlyweds. The whole thing was so special, from the union to the location, that Kathy and Brandon wanted something extraordinary.
Something Old Came to Mind
"[We were] discussing what would be the perfect gift for the newlyweds," Kathy recalled of that night on the deck. She added, "So I thought back to our wedding day (nearly 9 years ago) and tried to recall the gifts that had meant the most to me." And that's when a lightbulb went off in her brain.
"The gift that meant the very most was still sitting in a closet... unopened," she realized. Nine years after receiving it, the old box was largely forgotten - until now. As they brainstormed gift options for their friends, the couple's conversation turned towards Aunt Alison's mysterious present.
They'd Had Plenty of Arguments
Kathy recalled, "On our wedding day, my husband Brandon and I received a gift from my Great Aunt Alison. On the plain white box was a card that read, 'Do not open until your 1st disagreement.'" But the gift was closed and nearly forgotten - despite its potential usefulness many times in the last nine years.
"There had obviously been plenty of disagreements, arguments and slammed doors throughout our 9 years," Kathy admitted. "There were even a couple of instances where we both considered giving up... but we never opened the box." And there was another, more secret reason why.
Their Big Fear
Leaving the box untouched wasn't just about Kathy and Brandon's competitive nature or wanting to save it for a really big fight. The truth was, the parents of two were genuinely scared to find out what was inside the old white box. If they finally opened it, what did that say about the Gunns' marriage?
"I honestly think that we both avoided turning to the box because it would have symbolized our failure," Kathy confessed. "To us, it would have meant that we didn't have what it takes to make our marriage work and we're both too stubborn and determined for that."
The Unopened Box Helped Them
Kathy and Brandon were scared that if they turned to the box to solve their problems, it implied that the couple didn't have the tools on their own to navigate life's troubles. So they just left it closed for nearly a decade. Wildly enough, even as it gathered dust on a shelf, the gift actually helped them.
"It forced us to reassess situations," Kathy detailed. "Was it really time to open the box? What if this isn't our worst fight? What if there's a worse one ahead of us and we don't have our box?!? As my Great Uncle Bill would say, 'Nothing is ever so bad that it couldn't get worse.'"
What Was Inside?
But just because they didn't want to open the present for the last nine years didn't mean that Kathy and Brandon never speculated about what could be inside. Especially those first few years of marriage bliss, the duo wondered plenty about its contents. And they had some predictions.
"All along, we assumed that the contents of that box held the key to saving a marriage - an age old trick - unbeknownst to us rookies. After all, my Great Aunt and Uncle had been married for nearly half a century. So, we thought the box would save us," Kathy explained.
It Saved Them
"We thought there would be a long, heartfelt letter about the struggles [Alison and Bill] had faced," Kathy continued explaining of her and Brandon's theories. They thought for sure whatever was inside was powerful enough to save their marriage and, according to Kathy, "in a way it did."
"That box went beyond what I believe my Great Aunt had intended. It was by far the greatest wedding gift of all," Kathy reflected. "For 9 years... that box sat high on a shelf in various closets gathering dust, yet it somehow taught us about tolerance, understanding, compromise and patience."
Aunt Alison Was Surprised
It had been a while since the couple even thought about the old box. But the brainstorming session for their friends' wedding gift brought back a flood of memories from their marriage journey - including Aunt Alison's present. And the loving relative couldn't believe it when Kathy and Brandon told her they still hadn't opened it.
"Aunt Alison was surprised that we kept it for nine years, then the lessons it taught us - inadvertently," Kathy said. "She didn't realize just how special the gift was to us until a number of years after our wedding when she found out that we hadn't opened it yet."
It Was Time
As word got around the Hocter family that Kathy and Brandon still hadn't opened the highly-anticipated gift, people were in shock. But everyone would soon be able to pick their jaws up off the floor because the couple decided it was finally time for the big reveal.
"If we've made it this far, I don't think we need the box to save us," Brandon explained. For years, the couple put off opening the meaningful present. What would it say about their marriage? What if they needed that special solution for a bigger problem? But nearly a decade in, those insecurities were gone.
The Big Reveal
Brandon and Kathy felt beyond strong in their relationship as partners to each other and parents to their kids. They made it this far and were confident that they had a long road ahead - together. And so nine years after their big day, they opened the box.
"Today, we decided to open that box because I finally had a realization. I realized that the tools for creating and maintaining a strong, healthy marriage were never within that box - they were within us," Kathy explained. Inside were a few bath gels and two glasses, along with some cash and special instructions.
Brandon and Kathy were surprised when they opened the gift. It was far from the sentimental message they expected from Aunt Alison, perhaps with some deep advice about love, life, and marriage. Instead, there were two glasses of wine. But then they noticed some instructions.
There were two handwritten notes, one for the Mr. and one for the Mrs. The one addressed to Brandon read, "Brandon, go get flowers and a bottle of wine." Tucked inside the letter was a bundle of cash for the necessary products. What about Kathy's instructions?
Aunt Alison's note to Kathy said, "Go get a pizza, shrimp or something you both like. Get a bath ready." The box that Brandon and Kathy had for so long wondered about - and in some ways feared - was far from what they expected. But the couple loved it.
"Those items were meant to bring us together; to remind us to take care of each other, to do something thoughtful for one another. It was meant to help us lower our guard during a difficult time and remember why we became a couple - why we wanted to be together," Kathy shared.
Sharing the Love
Brandon and Kathy likely found a bit of humor in the box's content. After all those years of hype, the gift was actually quite simple. Yet its existence helped the couple through countless challenges. They couldn't wait to finally share the news with everyone.
"[Aunt Alison] was flabbergasted...and tickled," Kathy recalled. "She thinks that it's the funniest and the cutest thing because she can't believe we even hung onto it for that long." And Aunt Alison wasn't the only one who found the whole ordeal adorable...
They Went Viral
Kathy decided to submit their sweet story to Love What Matters, a platform where people from around the world can send their unique love journies. And it didn't take long for the post to go viral. As of this article's writing, the Gunns' mystery gift post has 23,000 likes.
People couldn't get enough of the adorable chain of events. "I wish I had had this gift when I was married," wrote one person. "I am getting married in two weeks and to get a gift like this would be so symbolic of what marriage is all about," echoed another.
"The Gift That Keeps On Giving"
The Gunns couldn't believe the reaction to their post. "My husband and I are in awe of how much attention this story has garnered," Kathy said. "I had only intended to give credit to my great aunt and share how important the box was for my husband and I."
"And the lessons that it had inadvertently taught us," she added. But clearly, Aunt Alison's box did much more than that. "Now that our story has gotten so much attention and inspired others, it seems to be the gift that keeps on giving!" Kathy said.
Everybody Loves Aunt Alison
But there was one person who was more shocked than anyone about the viral ordeal: Aunt Alison. "Now she's even more surprised at the response our story has received," Kathy shared. It seemed that the caring great aunt was an internet sensation - one everybody wanted to know.
"[Aunt Alison] is just tickled by how much attention this has gotten - how many people have shared that they wish they had an 'Aunt Alison' and those that think her gift was absolutely genius," said Kathy. At the end of the day, it's sometimes the simplest gifts that make the biggest differences.